“No one sews a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins – and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22
This morning, I was reading this seemingly enigmatic phrase spoken by Jesus, in the midst of a seemingly unrelated situation. “Why is he suddenly rambling on about fixing clothes and wine?”
I was struck today by the real importance of his words – as massively significant today (if not even more so) as they were 2,000 years ago.
I see so many people go through the same issues that Jesus addresses here….so many end up hurt, confused, bitter, and walk away from the Lord, because they haven’t heard this simple truth before. It isn’t a popular one today, and many churches even have ceased teaching it. But it remains just as pertinent as when Jesus shared it.
It’s also shockingly simple. And, in fact, the way Jesus shares it here is no enigma – it’s actually dumbed-down so that it can make complete sense to any living, breathing human on the planet.
SO….what, then is this shockingly simple, life-changing truth?
Jesus is saying here, that we cannot apply “Christianity” to our old lives. We cannot expect to be filled with new life in Jesus while walking around in our OLD “wineskins”.
Many people will tell youngsters that all they have to do is say a prayer, and then they’ll be saved and will go to Heaven when they die. They then assume that they’re Christians from that point onward, and continue on through their lives, roughly haphazardly, unchanged, struggling….and yet, with the assurance that they’re saved. Cue life. Trials. Horrible situations that arise. Temptations. They wonder why these things have happened to them, and get mad at God for allowing them. They get bitter, disillusioned by their expectations of what Christianity was supposed to do for them. And, ultimately, they walk away from the Lord…because He didn’t perform like He was “supposed” to, according to their preconceived notions of what Christianity was supposed to be. BUT…what they failed to understand (quite often, because no one bothered to mention it to them) was that Jesus isn’t a patch that we can stick on our old lives. We can’t have the joy of His fresh wine of salvation in our old skins.
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12-13
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Romans 6:1-13
There are many other scriptures, too, which speak of these things. But I think there are enough examples for now, to illustrate the point Jesus was making.
Jesus tells us to put off our old lives. Becoming a Christian means more than saying a prayer (though that is, in fact, where it must start…and Jesus does come to us, and begins to dwell in us at that moment). It means letting the Holy Spirit search our hearts, and break away from our hearts and lives anything that is of our old, sinful nature. It means gladly letting go of our sinful desires – exchanging them for the new desires that Christ puts within us. It means turning from our old passions and pursuits, and seeking Christ’s direction for our lives. It does NOT mean holding on to our sinful lifestyles while going to church. When Jesus comes in, He comes in to change us. And if we do not allow that radical change of lifestyle and heart, there will be a tearing, and a bursting. Just as in the story of the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the Temple of Dagon (read about it in 1 Samuel 5), Jesus doesn’t play well with other Gods. When He comes in, the other gods in our hearts will be smashed to pieces…and if we aren’t willing for that to happen, and we keep trying to pick them up, and put them back on their thrones, the Lord’s presence is going to have to leave. There’s only one throne in our lives, and only one master of our souls. It can only be Jesus and following His ways (“Christian”, coincidently means “follower of Christ”), or we are following something or someone else. We cannot have both. We cannot put the freshness of Christ into our old, dead wineskins. The repair of our broken hearts cannot be mended by the newness of Jesus, if we are unwilling for the rest of our hearts to be made new as well.
1.) Have you been made completely new by Christ? Or does your life look much the same as the rest of your peers?
2.) Is there something you have been unwilling to give up or surrender to Christ? What is it that you are gaining from it? Is it worth pushing the presence of God out of your life?
3.) Did you once have a vibrant relationship with Jesus…but are now feeling it to be dull and lifeless? Ask God to show you where along the way you may have gotten to a point of being unwilling to surrender something that He asked of you…or where you took back something of your old lifestyle. Chances are good that you will be able to find just such a point, and if you are willing to revisit it, and make that step of surrender, you can be filled again with the new wine of Jesus’ presence again!